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Full text of "The poetry and philosophy of Browning; a handbook of eight lectures"

The Poetry and Philosophy 

OF 

BROWNING 



A Handbook of Eight Lectures by 

Edward Howard Griggs 



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B. W. HUEBSCH 

Publisher 
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:4 At the midnight in the silence of the sleep-time, 
When you set your fancies free, 
Will they pass to where — by death, fools think, imprisoned — 
Low he lies who once so loved you, whom you loved so, 
—Pity me? 

Oh to love so, be so loved, yet so mistaken! 

What had I on earth to do 
With the slothful, with the mawkish, the unmanly? 
Like the aimless, helpless, hopeless, did I drivel 
— Being — who ? 

One who never turned his back but marched breast forward, 

Never doubted clouds would break, 
Never dreamed, though right were worsted, wrong would triumph, 
Held we fall to rise, are baffled to fight better 
Sleep to wake. 

No, at noonday in the bustle of man's work-time 

Greet the unseen with a cheer! 
Bid him forward, breast and back as either should be, 
'Strive and thrive!' cry 'Speed, — fight on, fare ever 
There as here!'" 

— Browning, Epilogue to Asolando. 



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INDEX. 

PAGE 

Note: Spirit of the Course ...... 6 



1. The Positive Message: Rabbi Ben Ezra .... 7 

2. Music and the Spirit: Abt Vogler ..... 12 

3. The Study of Personality: Andrea del Sarto . . .17 

4. The Portrayal of Failure: Cleon 21 

5. The Tragedy of the Pursuit of Knowledge: Paracelsus . 25 

6. Browning's Philosophy of Art and Life: The Ring and the 

Book . 30 

7. The Crowning Revelation of Manhood: Caponsacchi . . 35 

8. Browning's Interpretation of Womanhood: Pompilia . . 40 



Suggestions to Students ...... 45 

Book List 46 



SPIRIT OF THE COURSE. 

THE aim of this course is to give an introduction to the poetry 
and philosophy of Browning through the careful study of a 
few typical and especially lofty expressions of his genius. 
The first half of the course will deal with four of Browning's repre- 
sentative shorter poems, chosen as best expressing at once his inter- 
pretation of human life and his characteristic poetic method, the 
dramatic monologue. The second half of the course will deal with two 
of his longer works which illustrate in widely different ways his char- 
acteristics in thought and art. Of these, Paracelsus embodies the 
youthful Browning, plunging into the deepest psychological and 
moral problems, while The Ring and the Book, a dozen dramatic mono- 
logues interpreting one theme, gives Browning's mature philosophy 
of art and life and contains his highest presentation of exalted man- 
hood and womanhood. An appreciation of these poems should give 
such an understanding of Browning's essential attitude and character- 
istic poetic form as to furnish a key to all else he has written. 

Many of us can testify with deep gratitude to the unique influence 
of Browning over us. We love him peculiarly, not only as a poet, 
but because he has helped waken us to the deepest ends and meaning 
of human life. To our age he is a great spiritual teacher, not of the 
conventions of faith, but of that religion of personal life which the 
world is beginning faintly to understand. 

Prophet as he is with reference to modern life, expressing, not the 
conceptions that come and go with the hour, but those great ideas 
which come through the long unfolding of humanity, Browning 
is not easily understood until we saturate ourselves with a few great 
embodiments of his genius, and thus learn to read his poetry from 
the point of view of his own spirit. When we are able to do this, Brown- 
ing is rarely more difficult to read than the range and depth of problems 
he attempts, necessitates. Instead of finding him obscure, we respond 
with increasing exhilaration to the rapid movement and deep sugges- 
tion of his thought , and to the strength, variety and harmonious adapta- 
tion of his virile and often exquisite poetic form. 



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I. THE POSITIVE MESSAGE: RABBI BEN EZRA. 

"Only a learner, 

Quick one or slow one, 
Just a discerner, 

I would teach no one. 
I am earth's native: 
No rearranging it! 
/ be creative, 

Chopping and changing it?" 

— Browning, Pisgah-Sights II, p. 205.* 

"Then life is — to wake not sleep, 
Rise and not rest, but press 
From earth's level where blindly creep 

Things perfected, more or less, 
To the heaven's height, far and steep." 

— Browning, Asolando, Reverie, p. 266. 



LECTURE OUTLINE. 

Introduction. — The statement regarding Thoreau that it was his 
misfortune to have had a brilliant enemy as a critic and a weak friend 
as apologist. Application of this to the multitude of critics and apolo- 
gists in the case of Browning. His misfortune that the subjective 
and spiritual character of his poetry made it fall easily a prey to those 
who cultivate the mysticism of intellectual laziness, dabbling in the 
esoteric because unwilling to take the trouble to think clearly, imagin- 
ing that obscure expression is depth of thought. Yet already the 
froth of misguided adoration and prejudiced attack clearing away, 
and a recognition growing that Browning is distinctly the most virile 
and spiritually awakening mind in modern English literature. 

Browning's alleged obscurity. — Reasons for the charge: (1) Intro- 
spective interest of Browning; (2) Characteristic method; (3) Rapid 
movement of thought; (4) Depth of thought and problem; (5) Absence 
of explanation, and assumption of special knowledge. Thus necessary 
* All references to Browning are to the Camberwell edition. See the Book List, p. 46. 

7 



to bring to the poem some knowledge of the subject it presents; to 
get into sympathy with the spirit and movement of Browning's thought; 
to grapple with the desp 'problems he studies. The question whether 
there is still an element of unnecessary obscurity. 

Method of trfe course. — The Value of the short dramatic monologues 
written m tne period of Browning's full maturity in genius. These 
poems as peculiarly excellent in both thought and form; as giving a 
condensed statement of Browning's essential message; as the best 
expressions of his characteristic poetic method; as more easily mastered 
than the longer poems. Hence the value of these selected brief poems 
as an introduction to Browning's poetry and philosophy. Place in 
the work of Browning of the four to be discussed. 

From these turn to two of the longer works. The place of Paracelsus 
as revealing Browning's youth and presenting one range of his central 
teaching. The Ring and the Book as his masterpiece among the longer 
poems. Its significance as a multiplied dramatic monologue; as the 
fullest statement of Browning's philosophy; as his most wonderful 
presentation of transfigured human life. 

What should result from the study of these portions of Browning's 
work. 

The life of Browning (1812-1889). — Browning unlike most poets in 
the character of his life. Everywhere affirmative, positive, yet in 
true harmony with the noblest ideals. No apology needed in his 
case: he lived his faith, in both personal and vocational life. 

Unusual character of his childhood. Camberwell; family back- 
ground; early tastes. Dedication to poetry from childhood. 

Young manhood of Browning. Period of restlessness: its probable 
significance in his life. First great work: Pauline, published at 21; 
Paracelsus at 23. Great difference between the two. Significance of 
the early struggle with deep problems. Compare Tennyson's work 
at the same age. 

Period of dramas. — Early association with actors and interest in the 
stage. Character of Browning's dramas. Considerable measure of 
public success with them. 

Epoch of full maturity. — Browning's finding of himself and of the 
true leading in his work. Turning away from the field in which he had 
won some public response. Loss of his audience. Prejudice against 
his work and attacks upon it. For twenty years Browning working 
steadily on with little response beyond the limited circle of individual 
admirers and friends. 

Turn of the tide when Browning about fifty. Steady growth of 
appreciation from that time onward. His position well established 
at the time of his death in 1889. 

8 



Thus remarkable spectacle of this twenty years of straightforward, 
undoubting work, in the face of misappreciation and abuse. One 
main cause of Browning's attitude the deep personal relationship of 
his life. 

Browning's personal life. — Story of the love-affair with Elizabeth 
Barrett. Unusual circumstances of the marriage. The ordinary 
counsels, biological and prudential, under such circumstances. Yet 
Browning's love and married life one of the few personal relationships 
we are privileged to know about which help us to recognize the heights 
that are attainable in the most wonderful aspect of human life. 

The Browning letters. The life in Italy. Effect of his greatest 
personal experience on Browning's poetry. Life and work after the 
death of his wife. 

Browning's supreme interest. — The study of soul development 
through critical moments of experience. Browning's belief that a 
man is proved by the crowning experience of his life. Hence the study 
of these critical moments should throw light before and after and 
reveal the meaning of his whole existence. Different types of moments 
significant for different characters. Illustrate: Abt Vogler; Andrea 
del Sarto; Cleon. / 

Browning's poetic method. — The dramatic monologue the natural 
vehicle for embodying Browning's interest in human life. Full matur- 
ing of his poetry with his recognition and acceptance of this fact. 

Compare Browning's interest and method with those of other poets: 
^Eschylus, Dante, Goethe, Shakespeare. The soliloquies of Hamlet, 
strung together without context, as an illustration of Browning's 
typical work in content and form. Expression of Browning's char- 
acteristic interest and method even in works more objectively dramatic : 
illustrations. 

Adaptation of form to content. — Browning too wise to plow fields 
in white gloves. His aim, not to make monotonously musical verse, 
but to give adequate and harmonious expression to his thoughts and 
characters. Measure of his success in this. Variety of his poetic 
forms in both music and imagery. His achievement at his best and 
at his worst. 

Personal element in Browning. — Browning not purely dramatic as 
Shakespeare. While never wearing his heart on his sleeve, always 
directly or indirectly expressing his essential attitude and faith. The 
poet behind each of his characters. 

Rabbi Ben Ezra. — This poem showing perhaps as well as any in all 
Browning's work his essential message and characteristic method. 

The historical Rabbi Ben Ezra: his work; his theory of immortality, 
Situation of the poem. 

9 



Stanza-form in the poem. Type of music and imagery; adaptation 
to the character. 

The view of old age. Quick change in thought. Characteristics 
of youth and value of its "divine discontent." Browning's thought 
of life as a growth. Hence acceptance of pain and unfulfilled effort 
and aspiration where life results. Glad recognition of the good mean- 
ing in both body and spirit. 

Return in stanza XIII to the initial thought of the poem: illustra- 
tion of the movement of Browning's thought: compare deep conversa- 
tion 

The view of age as a resting-point between two courses of action, 
enabling one to gather up the meaning of the first before turning to 
the second 

Rabbi Ben Ezra's faith in the eternity of life: is it Browning's? 
Reasons for the assurance of immortality. 

The new turn to the metaphor of the Potter's Wheel. Conception 
of the relation of God and the soul. Again grounds for the faith. 

The positive message. — Reasons for identifying Browning's view of 
life essentially with that taken in the poem: (1) mood and spirit of 
the whole; (2) obvious identification of poet and character; (3) out- 
side evidence from other direct expressions of Browning's faith. 

Browning's glad acceptance of human life: in youth and age; in 
pain and joy; in body and spirit, since through all may be growth up 
toward that image of God in which we are potentially made. 



TOPICS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION. 

1. How far are we justified in identifying Browning's personal 

faith with the views given in Rabbi Ben Ezra? 

2. Compare the view of old age in Rabbi Ben Ezra "with that given 

in the first book of Plato's Republic. 

3. Rabbi Ben Ezra's theory of immortality. 

4. Browning's view of the life of the senses. 

5. Why cannot life be judged by its results in work alone? 

6. Compare Rabbi Ben Ezra and Tennyson's Ancient Sage. 

7. What is the moral value of discontent? 

8 The construction and value of the stanza-form in Rabbi Ben Ezra. 
9. The sources of Browning's faith in God and immortality. 
10. Compare Rabbi Ben Ezra's philosophy in the poem with Brown- 
ing's expression of faith in Prospice, the Epilogue to Asolando, 
the Reverie (in Asolando) and Im, Saisiaz. 

10 



REFERENCES. 

See the suggestions to students, p. 45, and the general book list, 
pp. 46-51. Books starred are of special value in connection with 
this course; those double-starred are texts for study and discussion 
or are otherwise of first importance. 

Browning, **Rabbi Ben Ezra; **Epilogue to Asolando; **Prospice; 
*Reverie (in Asolando); * La Saisiaz. Browning, R. and E. B., ^Letters. 
Browning, E. B., Letters. Berdoe, Browning's Message to His Time, 
pp. 1-70, 193-213. Brooke, The Poetry of Robert Browning, chapter I, 
Browning and Tennyson. Bulkeley, The Reasonable Rhythm of Some 
of Browning's Poems. Carpenter, The Religious Spirit in the Poets. 
Chesterton, *Robert Browning. Corson, ^Introduction to Browning, 
pp. 3-31, 72-98, 130-133. Dowden, *Robert Browning. Fothering- 
ham, Studies of the Mind and Art of Browning. Gosse, Robert Browning. 
Herford, Robert Browning. Mrs. Orr, Life and Letters of Robert Brown- 
ing. Rolfe, Browning's Mastery of Rhyme, in Boston Browning Society 
Papers, pp. 164-172. Royce, Browning's Theism, in Boston Browning 
Society Papers, pp. 7-34. Sharp, Life of Browning. Symons, Intro- 
duction to Browning. Waugh, Robert Browning. 



11 



II. MUSIC AND THE SPIRIT: ABT VOGLER. 

"Music is the harmonious voice of creation; an echo of the invisible 
world; one note of the divine concord which the entire universe is 
destined one day to sound: — how can you hope to seize that note if 
not by elevating your minds to the contemplation of the universe, 
viewing with the eye of faith things invisible to the unbelieving, and 
compassing the whole creation in your study and affection?" 

— Joseph Mazzini, Life and Writings, volume IV, p. 8. 



LECTURE OUTLINE. 

Introduction. — Abt Vogler, like Rabbi Ben Ezra, a poem giving a direct 
statement of Browning's essential faith and also a typical expression 
of his poetic method. Yet in Abt Vogler a further element: the philos- 
ophy of music; and through the experience of the musical artist a 
mystical, spiritual vision. 

The value of the dramatic monologue in the expression of such a 
spiritual faith and philosophy. The difference between a dogmatic 
theory of life and an artistic presentation of how life looks from the 
point of view of a certain height of experience. What the latter does 
for us: (1) In our appreciation of human beings; (2) In our recognition 
of the deep meaning of life; (3) In our hold upon the bases of faith. 
The distinction between saying "this is true of life," and "life looks 
so from this point of experience." Contrast wisdom and knowledge; 
the truth of poetry and the truth of philosophy. 

The historical Abt Vogler (1749-1814). — Early dedication to music 
and the church. Original and virile mind and character. Range 
of public success in several lands. Great pupils. Bitter enemies, who 
regarded him as a charlatan. Work as musical composer, inventor, 
artist. 

Browning's interest in the forceful, path-making type of character. 
Significance of his choice of Abt Vogler, instead of a more conventional 
type of artist, to interpret experience in creative art. 

12 



Browning's own love of music. What it meant in his life. Hence 
his preparation for the study in the poem. 

Situation in the poem. — Abt Vogler presented in the moment just 
after he has been extemporizing on the instrument of his own inven- 
tion. This as illustrating the highest point in musical art, where the 
artist who composes and the artist who executes are one, and the 
creative energy flows out in instantaneous expression. Value for Brown- 
ing's purpose of this bridging of the chasm between composition and 
execution ordinarily present in music. Significance that the instrument 
through which he finds expression is also the child of the artist's genius. 
The moment that of perfect creating, where the impulse and thought 
of the heart flow instantaneously forth in adequate and harmonious 
form. Thus the situation of the poem indeed one of those critical 
moments of experience in which a soul is tested and revealed, and 
which Browning so delighted to study. 

Browning's question: how does art and how does life appear from 
the view-point of Abt Vogler's supreme experience? Browning's 
belief that life is tested at high-water mark. Truth as revealed on. 
the heights. The higher we climb, the truer is the perspective from 
which life is seen. Hence the value of great experiences and of art as 
an expression and interpretation of them. Illustrations from human 
life and history of the truth of Browning's view. 

Form of the poem. — Abt Vogler's soul vibrant with the most intense 
emotion, he bursts into poetic expression. Adaptation of the long, 
six-foot, eight-line stanza, with its predominance of dactylic feet, to 
the mood of the poem. Organ-like roll in the strong music of the 
poem. Alliteration as distinctly adding to this impression. 

Imagery of the poem as equally adapted to the character and situa- 
tion. Browning's reversal of the conventional comparison of archi- 
tecture and music. Music as liquid architecture, the artist's thought 
flowing out into the many-pinnacled temple of sound with no slow 
process of time and labor existing as barrier between idea and execu- 
tion. Abt Vogler's images all in dramatic truth to the character. 

Stanzas I-III. — Abt Vogler's hunger that his wonderful achieve- 
ment might last. Solomon's legendary magic no more marvelous in 
its results than this temple of sound Abt Vogler has raised. His 
wish that it might last as only a natural expression of that hunger for 
permanence that is one of the two bottom desires of the human heart. 

Stanzas IV, V. — Art creative like Nature, thus lifting us into har- 
mony with her. Sense of cooperation of the universe with us in every 
act of creation. 

The power of music to lift us to a point of spiritual appreciation 
where past and future seem real now. Contrast the standards of 

13 



time and space with the standards of the soul. Compare Goethe's 
Dedication to Faust. 

Stanzas VI, VII: the philosophy of music. — Abt Vogler's view of 
the miracle in music. His statement of his own art from within, of 
the other arts from without; thus giving the positive excellence 01 
music, and the limitations of painting and poetry. 

In music form sublimated: each sound created only to be annulled 
the next instant by another. Through the succession of births and 
deaths of the musical sounds the arousing of a series of emotional 
states in the hearer. Thus music bridging more immediately than 
the other arts the chasm between body and spirit. To explain how 
the series of psychical states springs from the series of physical 
forms would be to solve the riddle of the universe. 

Transition to spiritual philosophy: stanzas VIII, IX. — With stanza 
VII close of the first movement of the poem, concerned with the narra- 
tion of Abt Vogler's experience. The remaining stanzas giving the 
interpretation of the experience. Type of experience Abt Vogler repre- 
sents; thus what music can symbolize. 

No comfort to the musical extemporizer that other temples of sound 
may be born as this that is gone was born. So no comfort to the 
human heart that there may be a succession of experiences. 

"Each Morn a thousand Roses b:.-gs, \gj say; 
Yes, but where leaves the Rose of Yesterday?" 

Hunger for the eternity of the particular experience. 

But is the music gone? Compare the experience surviving in the 
soul of the man. I am the net resultant of all my yesterdays. Thus 
the temple of sound surviving in the soul of the artist; the wealth 
of changing experience in the character of the man. 

Leap from this fact to the belief in eternity. Browning not arguing 
from desire to realization. The argument: as yesterday and to-day 
are justified by their result in my unfolding life, so I may dare to trust 
to-morrow. Worth of such an argument. 

Stanzas X, XI: View of good and evil.— As only that which is posi- 
tive, in harmony with the spiritual order of the universe, really lives 
on, so evil is negation, "silence implying sound." Hence from the 
point of view of the whole of life, possible to accept even the moral 
darkness and shadows of life as we know it. 

Splendid enthusiasm in this ringing song of Abt Vogler's faith. 
Note: Browning does not say "these things are true"; but "life 
looks this way from the point of spiritual vision Abt Vogler lias reached 
through his creative art." The underlying question: dare we trust 

14 



such a vision, or is it a cheating illusion, while the prosaic sand-wastes 
we plod over after descending from the mountain are the truth of life? 
Browning's unhesitating and emphatic answer to this question. Note: 
not necessary that we should be able to prove or disprove; but im- 
portant that we should know what we may dare to believe as the 
basis of our lives. A kind of heroism demanded in faith: we must 
dare to cling to what we have seen in our highest experiences, and to 
brave life as if the loftiest that has come to us were true. 

Stanza XII: Conclusion. — Descent to the common chord, the C- 
major of this life. Impossible to remain upon the peak of vision. 
Every mountain means at least two valleys. In every life moments 
of supreme vision; in every life dead areas of commonplace. Great 
living the carrying of the vision of the mountain across the sand- 
wastes and into even the valley of the shadow in the assurance that if 
we do so faithfully the mountains will appear in the distance, and by 
and by the vision — a new vision — will come again. 



TOPICS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION. 

1. What is the significance of Browning's love of unusual char- 

acters and subjects? 

2. The historic Abt Vogler. 

3. The metrical structure in Abt Vogler. Compare that in Rabbi 

Ben Ezra. 

4. The imagery in Abt Vogler. Compare that in Rabbi Ben Ezra. 

5. The significance of the dramatic moment chosen to interpret 

Abt Vogler. 

6. Is Abt Vogler just to painting and poetry? 

7. Why has music so important a religious function? 

8. What gives music its superiority to the other arts in expressing 

the Infinite? 

9. What is the reason for choosing the experience of the musician 

as a vehicle for interpreting the highest spiritual life? 

10. What ground is there for believing that "there shall never be 

one lost good"? 

11. What advantage has the poetical expression of Browning's 

faith in Abt Vogler over a dogmatic statement of the same 
view of life? 

12. Compare Abt Vogler and Master Hugues of Saxe-Gotha. 

13. Compare Abt Vogler and With Charles Avison in Parleyings 

with Certain People. 

15 



REFERENCES. 

Browning, **Abt Vogler; ** Said; *M 'aster Hugues of Saxe-Gotha; 
*A Toccata of Galuppi's; *With Charles Avison in Parleyings with 
Certain People. Beale, The Religious Teaching of Browning. Berdoe, 
* Browning and the Christian Faith. Brooke, *The Poetry of Brown- 
ing, chapter V. Corson, Introduction to Browning, pp. 122-126. Daw- 
son, Makers of Modern English, chapters XXVI-XXIX. Fothering- 
ham, Studies of the Mind and Art of Browning, chapter XVII. Jones, 
Browning as a Philosophical and Religious Teacher. Mazzini, Life 
and Writings, volume IV, pp. 1-55, *The Philosophy of Music. Orme- 
rod, *Abt Vogler, the Man; *Some Notes on Browning's Poems Re- 
ferring to Music. Pigou Browning as a Religious Teacher. Mrs. 
Turnbull, Abt Vogler. 



16 



in. THE STUDY OF PERSONALITY: ANDREA 

DEL SARTO. 

"My stress lay on the incidents in the development of a soul: little 
else is worth study. I, at least, always thought so — you, with many 
known and unknown to me, think so, — others may one day think so." 
— Browning, in letter to J. Milsand, prefatory to SordeUo. 



LECTURE OUTLINE. 

Introduction. — Andrea del Sarto widely different from the two pre- 
ceding studies: there a direct expression of Browning's faith and 
attitude through the medium of two great historical characters; here 
the study of a subtle personality widely different from Browning in 
fundamental reaction on life. No question as to Browning's own 
attitude toward the problems presented in Andrea del Sarto; but a 
further aspect of his work — the study of personality. Wide range of 
Browning's poems in which this is the dominant interest. Andrea 
del Sarto one of the greatest of these. 

A further interest in Andrea del Sarto in the study of the historical 
character. Yet even if it were decided that Browning failed in the 
interpretation of the Florentine painter, the main value of the poem 
as a study of human character and the main truth to the problems 
of personal life remaining. 

The historical Andrea del Sarto (1487-1531). — Andrea living just in 
the crowning period of the Florentine renaissance: contemporaneous 
with Michael Angelo, Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci. Great interest 
to the students of art in Andrea's work through its technical excellence 
and the marvelous ease of Andrea's execution. In drawing, group- 
ing, color, light and shadow, Andrea a master for subsequent artists. 

Vasari's story. — Our chief knowledge of Andrea coming from Vasari's 
Life. Question as to the truth of Vasari's statements. Story of 
the youthful painter. His questionable marriage. The one flight. 
Return to Florence at Lucrezia's demand. Subsequent dishonor. 
Hack work. Vasari's pathetic account of Andrea's death. 
3 17 



Tendency to question Vasari's account to-day. Yet, as a pupil of 
Andrea's, Vasari should have known the facts; and his story should 
be accepted unless we believe him guilty of deliberate falsifying. The 
poem following strictly Vasari's account. 

Andrea's paintings. — Andrea's work chiefly in Florence. Great 
beauty in all his paintings: one's first impression from them that 
Browning's interpretation of the character is wrong. Yet, as our 
study proceeds, a more and more perplexing question. In spite of 
beauty, ease of execution, soft mingling of light and shade, some- 
thing elusive in all Andrea's work. Compare his Madonna of the 
Harpies, Young St. John, Deposition from the Cross. Moods which he 
could interpret. Crowning expression in his Last Supper at San Salvi. 
Self-revelation in his portraits. 

Suggestion in all Andrea's work of something greater unattained. 
Sense in which his reach did exceed his grasp. Thus failure from the 
point of view of his own unattained ideal, in spite of the great work 
he really achieved. Substantial truth therefore of the poem to the 
historical character; only, the poem must be read in the light of the 
remarkable work Andrea accomplished. 

Situation of the poem. — Evening: the twilight drawing down; 
Andrea in his Florentine studio, looking out of the window at Fiesole 
and Mount Morello: speaking half to himself, half to the wife who 
sits condescendingly beside him. Thus the moment chosen one of 
quiet, half-sad meditation, when Andrea's life lies clear in perspective 
and he can sum up to himself its meaning. The poem one of the best 
illustrations of the revelation of a character through a critical moment 
of experience by means of the dramatic monologue. 

Verse form and imagery. — Wonderful delicacy of the music in the 
blank verse of the poem, expressing the moan of a heart whose de- 
spair is hopeless. Evidence of Browning's mastery of exquisite ex- 
pression when he chose to use it. 

Type of images used in the poem; adaptation to the character. 
Contrast the imagery of Rabbi Ben Ezra and Abt Vogler. Thus again 
evidence of the true dramatic power of Browning, in identifying him- 
self with the spirit of his character and clothing the latter in ap- 
propriate form. 

The interpretative mood. — Variety of moods in Andrea's life; but 
the one recurring beneath all the rest and revealing the real heart of 
his life. This as the mood of the poem. 

Husband and wife. — Andrea's sensitive appreciation of Lucrezia's 
beauty; yearning for some response to his love for her, but accepting 
quietly the fact that (here is no answer. Timidly pleading that she 
sit by him through the evening hour; grateful that she does so without 

18 



too great restlessness. Holding her bodily presence for the moment; 
and recognizing that there is no way he can hold her thought and 
desire. 

How such a woman can attract such a man and hold him tangled 
in the charm of her irresponsive sensuousness. The pity of it! 

Andrea's view of life. — How philosophy and conduct mold each 
other. One's view of life simply the horizon of one's own world of 
action. Thus Andrea believes in blind fate, because his will has broken 
against obstacles he could not surmount. Measure of truth and of 
mistake, therefore, in his view of the world and of his own life. 

Andrea's despair. — In this quiet hour Andrea's return to the broken 
dream. All the old desire surging back upon him, with a crushing 
sense of the impossibility of its fulfillment. Thus quiet despair. This 
as so much deeper than the despair that cries out passionately. Thus 
Andrea: the wild bird rises once more to beat its breast against the 
inexorable bars of the cage; then, fresh- wounded, droops hopeless 
on the floor. 

In the pathetic intimacy of this evening hour Andrea's revelation 
to his wife of the one great compliment he had received — Michael 
Angelo's word he had cherished all these years as the symbol of what 
he might have been. Lucrezia's obliviousness, asking a moment 
later whose word! Gush of feeling to Andrea's lips and eyes; repres- 
sion; despair again. And then the Cousin's whistle! 

The one more chance Andrea craves. Recognition that it is im- 
possible. Acceptance of fate — fate now, but which his will is responsible 
for. Mood with which the poem closes. 

The poem and the painter. — Wonderful revelation of the deep things 
of human life in this subtle study of personality; yet also substantial 
truth to the historical character. Leaving the gossipy tradition aside, 
the Andrea of the poem the man who painted the pictures that hang 
in Florence. The sensitive spirit, delicately responsive to every appeal 
from the sensuous world, but lacking the firm center of masculine 
self-control and self-direction, as the background from which spring 
those subtle, beautiful, elusive paintings that perplex us in the galleries 
of Florence. 

Browning and Andrea. — How an artist can interpret his dramatic 
counterpart — the type that embodies the weakness of his own strength. 
So Browning and Andrea: contrast the two marriages; the life in 
Casa Guidi and the picture hanging in the Pitti Palace opposite — 
the picture Browning wrote his poem to describe. 

Browning's view of Andrea's tragedy. Causes of the tragedy. 
Was it inevitable? Suggestion by dramatic irony of what the life of 
love and the life of "work should be. 

19 



TOPICS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION. 

1. Compare the verse-form in Andrea del Sarto with that in Rabbi 

Ben Ezra and Abt Vogler. 

2. Compare the imagery in Andrea del Sarto with that in Rabbi 

Ben Ezra and Abt Vogler. 

3. Has Browning succeeded in giving a true interpretation of the 

historical Andrea del Sarto? 

4. Compare the relative values of the study of personal life and 

the interpretation of a historical character in Andrea del 
Sarto. 

5. Compare Andrea del Sarto and Tennyson's Romney's Remorse. 

6. The causes of Andrea del Sarto 's failure. 

7. Compare Andrea del Sarto with other poems of Browning dealing 

with the renaissance, as Fra Lippo Lippi and The Bishop 
Orders His Tomb. 

8. Contrast the study of personal life in Andrea del Sarto and in 

A Forgiveness. 

9. Compare the view of personal life given in Andrea del Sarto and 

in Any Wife to Any Husband. 

10. Contrast Browning's personal experience with that of Andrea 

del Sarto. 

11. Can Browning's own philosophy of personal life be discovered 

in Andrea del Sarto? 



REFERENCES. 

Browning, ** Andrea del Sarto; **Fra Lippo Lippi; *The Bishop 
Orders His Tomb; *Pictor Ignotus; *James Lee's Wife; *A Woman's 
Last Word; *Any Wife to Any Husband; *A Forgiveness. Brooke, 
Poetry of Browning, chapter V, *The Poet of Art. Burton, Literary 
Likings, pp. 150-171, Renaissance Pictures in Browning's Poetry. 
Corson, * Introduction to Browning, pp. 32-71, 113-116. Fleming, 
Andrea del Sarto. Fotheringham, Studies of the Mind and Art of 
Browning, chapter XV. Grant, Browning's Art in Monologue, in 
Boston Browning Society Papers, pp. 35-06. Ormerod, Andrea del 
Sarto and Abt Vogler. Tennyson, *Romney t 8 Remorse. Vasari, 
Lives of the Painters, volume IV, pp. 169-202, *Andrea del Sarto. 
Whitman, Browning in Relation to Painting. 



20 



IV. THE PORTRAYAL OF FAILURE: CLEON. 

"For it is with this world, as starting-point and basis alike, that 
we shall always have to concern ourselves: the world is not to be 
learned and thrown aside, but reverted to and relearned. The spiritual 
comprehension may be infinitely subtilized, but the raw material 
it operates upon must remain. There may be no end of the poets who 
communicate to us what they see in an object with reference to their 
own individuality; what it was before they saw it, in reference to the 
aggregate human mind, will be as desirable to know as ever." 

— Browning, Essay on Shelley, p. 285. 

"Why stay we on the earth unless to grow?" 

— Browning, Cleon, p. 84. 



LECTURE OUTLINE. 

Introduction. — A further type of dramatic monologue in Cleon: 
the primary interest a study of failure on the basis of what Brown- 
ing considers a false philosophy of life. In Andrea del Sarto failure 
in personal life, in love and work. Cleon rich, honored, successful, 
the friend of princes and chief artist of his time, yet the rose of life 
dust and ashes in his hands. 

Cleon an imaginary character typifying the epoch of decadent Greek 
culture. Thus interest in Browning's interpretation of the epoch 
as well as in his study of the significance for any time of Cleon 's philos- 
ophy of life. 

Browning's own faith opposite to that of Cleon; thus suggested by 
dramatic irony in the poem. Yet Browning's essential attitude as 
evident through the indirect expression in Cleon as in its affirmative 
embodiment in Rabbi Ben Ezra and Abt Vogler. 

Character and epoch of Cleon. — Instructive character of the declin- 
ing Greek world. Refinement of culture following upon virility of 
manhood. Interest transferred from public to private life. Diffi- 
culty in life and faith in such an age. Resemblance between the 
epoch of Cleon and our own. 

21 



Cleon a perfect type of his age. A finished artist in many fields; 
poet, philosopher, with a delicate sensitiveness to the world of sensuous 
appeal as great as that of Andrea del Sarto; but honored and success- 
ful, with a wide relation to the world. 

Form of the poem. — Exquisiteness of the music and imagery of the 
poem, thus expressive of Cleon 's spirit. Perfect adaptation of form 
to content. Browning's use of recurring images to unify the poem and 
give atmosphere. How the spirit of the whole is revealed in the 
music and imagery of the opening lines. 

Situation of the poem. — Interesting variation of the dramatic mono- 
logue. Cleon, having just received a letter accompanied by a wealth 
of gifts from his friend Protus, one of the petty Greek tyrants, sits 
down to write his thanks and answer the king's questions. Thus the 
poem is Cleon 's letter. 

Compare the interpretative moment chosen to reveal the character 
in Rabbi Ben Ezra, Abt Vogler, and Andrea del Sarto with that selected 
here. The king's question: "Life fails for me, are you who see and 
paint life happy?"; and in rising to answer this tragic question Cleon 
revealing the meaning of his character and experience. 

Cleon's view of life. — Dramatic irony in the quotation prefixed to 
the poem. Even among the Greeks, Browning thinks, a conception 
that might have solved Cleon's perplexity. 

Cleon's view of joy as the use and end of life; yet not vulgar joy. 
The refined epicureanism that seeks some loftier happiness than the 
mere satisfaction of brute instincts. Revelation of Cleon's vibrant 
response to every appeal from the world of sensuous beauty in his de- 
scription of the "one lyric woman." 

The letter's first question. — Cleon's pride in the wonderful range of 
his accomplishment. Yet haunting sense of failure in it all. His 
life overshadowed by the simple great of old. His effort to find com- 
fort in the variety of his achievements and the many-sidedness of his 
culture. Tendency to this pseudo-originality in every late age. The 
true relation to history. Impossible to know too much of the past; 
but possible to know a great deal and be incapable of vigorous action 
in the present; thus to have life overshadowed by great yesterdays 
and to seek novelty for originality. The true value of the past as 
inspiration for the present. 

Cleon's failure to see this. Contrast Browning's own view. Cleon's 
hunger for progress, yet despair within. Causes of his attitude. 

The second question. — With honor, fame and works that will live 
behind him is Cleon happy? Cleon's pathetic- answer. 

Self-consciousness as the peculiar mark of man. Does it mean 
progress beyond the life of the brute? Growth of a world of desire 

22 



with the conscious life, yet power to answer desire through the senses 
as under rigid limitations which grow more narrow through the very 
effort for culture that brings to birth the wider desires. The image 
of the Naiad. Contrast the view taken of discontent and struggle in 
Rabbi Ben Ezra. Compare Emerson's Sphinx. 

Hence Cleon's blind problem and his deepening despair. The 
point of view from which there may be an answer to his problem; 
but Cleon struggling within a closed circle and unable to break through 
it to a higher circle of ideas. 

The joy-hunger. — Intensity of Cleon's desire for what seems to him 
life. The folly of trying to satisfy it by promising an immortality 
in works one leaves behind. Compare Hamlet's bitter statement 
to Horatio. 

Cleon's expression of the characteristic Greek view of old age and 
death. Contrast Rabbi Ben Ezra's view. Causes for the difference 
in attitude. Unquestioning rejection of all hope of immortality by 
Cleon: reasons for his despair. 

Paul's preaching. — Cleon's patronizing attitude toward the " bar- 
barian Jew." His assurance that "our philosophy" is the only en- 
lightened view. Yet St. Paul's preaching as emphasizing the very 
conceptions which would have solved Cleon's bitter problem and 
transformed his despair into strong, hopeful life. Thus the dramatic 
irony of the poem and the suggestion by indirection of Browning's 
own view of life. 

Ethical value of the poem. — Significance of the poem as contrasted 
with a philosophical argument against the epicurean philosophy. 
Value in presenting the philosophy in the life with which it naturally 
clothes itself. Every creed tested finally by the fruit it brings forth 
in life. Hence the trenchant significance of Browning's arraignment 
of a merely hedonistic philosophy of life through his portrayal of the 
failure of Cleon. 

Contrast in value such a dramatic monologue as Cleon with the poems 
that are merely subtle presentations of personality. 

The vigor of Browning's message. Cleon's age resembling ours. 
The many who are caught in Cleon's dark riddle to-day. The splendid 
affirmation of the worth of life in Browning. His glad acceptance, not 
only of joy but pain, not only of peace but restless discontent, since 
to him life means endless growth in life. Tonic value of his teaching 
for such an age as ours. 



23 



TOPICS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION. 

1. The value of Browning's Cleon as compared with a philosophical 

argument against epicureanism. 

2. Browning's view of Christianity as implied in Cleon. 

3. Contrast true originality with Cleon 's view of originality. 

4. The causes of Cleon 's despair. 

5. If faith in immortality be lost, is there any answer to Cleon's 

despair? 

6. The quality and music of the verse in Cleon. Compare in Rabbi 

Ben Ezra, Abt Vogler and Andrea del Sarto. 

7. The imagery in Cleon. Compare that in Rabbi Ben Ezra, Abt 

Vogler and Andrea del Sarto. 

8. Browning's use of the "tower" image. 

9. Compare Cleon and Rabbi Ben Ezra in the view taken of human 

discontent. 

10. Compare the view of old age in Cleon and Rabbi Ben Ezra. What 

causes the difference? 

11. How can Browning's philosophy of life be discovered in Cleon? 

12. The type of classical interest in Browning. 

13. Browning's interpretation of Greece: compare Cleon with 

Balaustion's Adventure and Aristophanes' Apology. 



REFERENCES. 

Browning, **Cleon; * Balaustion's Adventure; * Aristophanes' Apology; 
*A Death in the Desert. The Bible, *Acts, chapter XVII. Bradford, 
Spiritual Lessons from the Brownings. Brooke, Poetry of Browning, 
chapters XI, XII, imaginative Representation. Bury, Browning's 
Philosophy. Hyde, Art of Optimism as Taught by Browning. Jones, 
Browning as a Philosophical and Religious Teacher. Nettleship, 
* Robert Browning, pp. 326-338. Pigou, Browning as a Religious 
Teacher. 



34 



V. THE TRAGEDY OF THE PURSUIT OF KNOWL- 
EDGE: PARACELSUS. 

"We turn with stronger needs to the genius of an opposite tendency 
— the subjective poet of modern classification. He, gifted like the 
objective poet, with the fuller perception of nature and man, is im- 
pelled to embody the thing he perceives, not so much with reference 
to the many below as to the One above him, the supreme Intelligence 
which apprehends all things in their absolute truth, — an ultimate 
view ever aspired to, if but partially attained, by the poet's own soul. 
Not what man sees, but what God sees, — the Ideas of Plato, seeds of 
creation lying burningly on the Divine Hand, — it is toward these that 
he struggles. Not with the combination of humanity in action, but 
with the primal elements of humanity, he has to do; and he digs 
where he stands, — preferring to seek them in his own soul as the nearest 
reflex of that absolute Mind, according to the intuitions of which he 
desires to perceive and speak. Such a poet does not deal habitually 
with the picturesque groupings and tempestuous tossings of the forest 
trees, but with their roots and fibres naked to the chalk and stone. 
He does not paint pictures and hang them on the walls, but rather 
carries them on the retina of his own eyes: we must look deep into 
his human eyes, to see those pictures on them. He is rather a seer, 
accordingly, than a fashioner, and what he produces will be less a 
work than an effluence. That effluence cannot be easily considered 
in abstraction from his personality, — being indeed the very radiance 
and aroma of his personality, projected from it but not separated. 
Therefore, in our approach to the poetry, we necessarily approach 
the personality of the poet; in apprehending it we apprehend him, 
and certainly we cannot love it without loving him. Both for love's 
and for understanding's sake we desire to know him, and, as readers 
of his poetry, must be readers of his biography also." 

— Browning, Essay on Shelley, pp. 283, 284. 



LECTURE OUTLINE. 

Introduction. — The brief poems of Browning's mature manhood as 
the most characteristic expression of his genius in both thought and 
form. Return from these to the period of Browning's youth and to 
the work which was prophetic of all he was to accomplish. 

Thus Paracelsus, published when Browning was 23, of great interest 

25 



in connection with his development. Distinctly a young man's poem, 
with the restlessness, vast ambitions and youthful sense of failure 
that so often mark adolescent genius; yet treating deep ethical and 
psychological problems with remarkable insight into human life. 
Interesting how many of Browning's central teachings find expression 
in this first great poem. 

Further, Paracelsus interpreting a remarkable epoch of human life, 
and as a poem characterized by great beauty in its highest portions. 
Thus variety of points of view from which the poem may be studied. 

The historical Paracelsus (1493?- 1541). — The Paracelsus who lived 
in the early sixteenth century a man of remarkable and original genius. 
Breaking away from his early conventional studies; dedicating him- 
self to the study (1) Of empirical science, not through books, but 
through direct investigation in chemistry and medicine; (2) Of all 
phases of human life; (3) Of mystical philosophy. Significance of 
the combination of his interests: compare Giordano Bruno. Much 
of his teaching since proved erroneous, yet many ideas and discoveries 
of permanent value. In the sixteenth century still possible to believe 
in the philosopher's stone and the elixir of life. Hence superstitions 
of Paracelsus and seeming traits of the charlatan. Yet sincerity ot 
Paracelsus. A pathmaker, bitterly contemptuous toward established 
learning, naturally violently opposed by conventional teachers. His 
wide travels and varied contact with human life. Circumstances of 
his death at Salzburg in 1541. Value of his mystical philosophy and 
range of his real contribution. His relation to the scientific and 
theological upheaval in the time of Erasmus and Luther. 

The poem in relation to the history. — Attraction to Browning in such 
a character as Paracelsus; attacked as charlatan but aspiring out and 
beyond mankind. Significance that Browning chose Paracelsus as 
the subject of his first great work. Compare the first scenes of Faust 
written before Goethe was 25. The youth of genius as expressed in 
Browning. 

Truth of the poem to the historical Paracelsus. Browning's claim: 
how far justified. Vitality of his interpretation of the epoch, what- 
ever be the verdict regarding his rendering of the historical character. 

Form of the poem. — Paracelsus really five dramatic monologues, 
with the interjection of a few questions, suggestions and comments 
by the friends ot* the chief character. The dramatic monologue here 
brought less strictly within true artistic limits than in the great poems 
of Browning's middle period. Yet vigor of his use of it and char- 
acteristic expression of his interest in human life. 

Beauty and freedom of the blank verse. The number of passages of 
unusual excellence. The larger amount of nature description than in 

26 



Browning's later work. Exquisiteness of the inserted lyrics; how 
they show Shelley's influence. The highest passages of Paracelsus 
as rising in poetic beauty to the level of Browning's best work. 

Scene I. — Wiirzburg, 1512; Paracelsus, 19. His farewell to his 
friends, Festus and Michal (wife of Festus), before his departure on 
his wandering travels. His discontent with the university work; 
aspiration toward a more real and universal knowledge. His sense 
that it would be death to live the commonplace life — even of learn- 
ing. This attitude as marking the youth of genius. Good and evil 
in it: compare in Faust, Goethe, Browning. 

Friendship with Festus. — Relation of the two young men to each 
other. Remonstrances of Festus and Michal, yet faith in their friend 
and in his vast dreams. Measure of dramatic reality in Festus and 
Michal. 

The aim of Paracelsus. — Vagueness of the aspirations of Paracelsus, 
yet centering on the hunger to know. Compare Faust's desire. Danger 
in the pride that seeks to be apart and above mankind. 

Why Paracelsus turns to a life of wandering in order to fulfil his 
aim. Compare the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow — the notion 
that somewhere else is all that we desire. "Wo du nicht bist, dort 
ist das Gliick! " This notion as always characteristic of youth. Pathos 
in its expression in Paracelsus; yet deeper significance. 

Relation of the aspiration of Paracelsus to mankind. Essential 
purity and loftiness of his aim; yet a certain arrogance. Distinction 
between working for the adventitious applause of the world and desir- 
ing the warm human response. How the intellect isolates while the 
heart unites. Hence loneliness of Paracelsus; compare Leonardo 
da Vinci and Giordano Bruno. 

The theory of Paracelsus that truth is within ourselves: is it Brown- 
ing's? Measure of truth and error in the conception; its relation to 
the character of Paracelsus. 

Scene I as a remarkable expression of the enthusiasms and ambi- 
tions of the youth of genius. 

Scene II. — Paracelsus, after nine years of wandering, at the house 
of a Greek fortune-teller in Constantinople, writing out the disappoint- 
ing story of his life. Dramatic irony in the title "Paracelsus attains." 
Paracelsus wakening not only to a sense of failure, but to a recognition 
of the forfeiting of the joys of common human life which the vain 
pursuit of his aim has involved. Compare St. Francis of Assisi; Cleon; 
Faust in scene I. 

Aprile. — Meeting with the dying poet. Aprile failing in seeking 
to love infinitely, as Paracelsus to know infinitely. In both not only 
the opposition between love and knowledge, but a striving for the 

27 



whole of the aspect sought, while neglecting the slow, step-by-step 
process through which either is attained. Compare the failure of 
Arniel. Yet to recognize the nature and meaning of one's failure, 
as Paracelsus partially does, after all, attainment. 

Scene III: apparent success. — Festus visiting his friend at Basile 
fourteen years after scene I. Paracelsus famous and with hosts of 
followers in the university, where he has been appointed to a professor- 
ship. Yet applauded for what he considers his weakness and failure, 
while his real aims remain as unrecognized as unattained. Bitterness 
in such a situation. How the world unconsciously spoils a leader by 
compelling him to dwell in the adventitious. 

Paracelsus's confession of himself to Festus; relief in such a self- 
revelation. Hunger of Paracelsus that his friend may see through 
the vanity of his success to his inner degradation and despair, that is, 
his reality. 

Scathing arraignment of the popular teacher's audience. How they 
tempt him to charlatanry. Compare Mr. Sludge, "the Medium." 
Yet the truth regarding his audience Paracelsus fails to see. 

Scene III as the tragedy of a leader's sufferings. Beautiful poetry 
into which the scene rises toward its close. 

Scene IV. — Dismissal of Paracelsus because he chose to speak the 
truth instead of giving his audience the pretense they desired. Deeply 
wounded, Paracelsus expressing his despair in a wild flame of laughter, 
enthusiasm, contempt. Like Faust reacting against the failure of 
the intellect to what seems most real — the uncontrolled life of the 
senses. Significance that Browning, like Goethe, wrote this study of 
restless reaction so early. 

Impossibility of returning to lost youth and the forfeited oppor- 
tunities of the common life. Michal's death the last touch to the 
despair of Paracelsus. 

Scene V. — Festus with his dying friend, 29 years since the first scene. 
How splendidly Festus rises in this last scene. Value in human life 
of such an unequal friendship. 

Wonderful revelation of Paracelsus's life and experience in the 
broken wanderings of his dying brain. His sincerity through all, 
hence reality of his character. 

Paracelsus's attainment.— Pride suppressed at last. Now, at the 
end, achievement of conceptions that make all life lie clear in the 
perspective of the dying hour. Ideas that make up Paracelsus's 
attainment: (1) At last, conception of Cod, of unity in all life, and 
of the relation of man to Cod. (2) Recognition of the nature and 
meaning <>f human life, its Btrength and weakness. (3) Conception 
of the relal ion of man to nature, and of man to his fellows in the solidar- 

2 s ; 



ity of mankind. (4) Conception of the relation of a leader to his 
followers, and appreciation of the higher truth of common life. (5) 
Lastly, recognition by Paracelsus of the reasons for his own failure. 

Significance of such an attainment. The range of Browning's 
central teachings expressed in it. Marvelous rising of the poem toward 
its close. 

Value of the poem. — Paracelsus as a work of art: chief merits and 
faults. Value of the poem as an interpretation of an epoch; as a 
study of great and permanent problems; as an expression of the char- 
acter and development of the poet who gave it birth in his youth. 

TOPICS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION. 

1. In what ways is Paracelsus typical of Browning's greatest work? 

2. What are the chief faults of the monologue in Paracelsus? 

3. The treatment of friendship in Paracelsus. 

4. The relative value of the lyrics in Paracelsus. 

5. Browning's character-drawing in Paracelsus. 

6. Compare Paracelsus and Faust. 

7. Contrast the treatment of Nature in Paracelsus and in Goethe's 

Sorrows of Werther. 

8. Compare Pauline and Paracelsus. 

9. In what does the central interest of Paracelsus lie: in the study 

of personality, the interpretation of an epoch, or the presenta- 
tion of a great ethical problem? 

10. Compare Paracelsus with Tennyson's early work. 

11. Compare the problem of Paracelsus with that presented in 

Sordello. 

12. Why is Paracelsus so much easier to read than Sordello? 

13. Contrast Browning's poetic method in Paracelsus and in Pippa 

Passes: which produces the higher result? 

14. Compare in artistic effectiveness Paracelsus and the poems 

previously studied. 

REFERENCES. 

Browning, **Paracelsus; *Pippa Passes; *Sordello; *Pauline, 
Berdoe, Browning's Message to His Time, pp. 145-192, *Paracelsus: 
The Reformer of Medicine. Brooke, Poetry of Browning, chapter IV, 
pp. 115-140. Buck, Browning's Paracelsus and Other Essays, pp. 
13-60. Chesterton, ^Robert Browning. Dowden, Robert Browning, 
chapter II. Fotheringham, Studies of the Mind and Art of Browning, 
chapter V. Royce, The Problem of Paracelsus, Boston Browning 
Society Papers, pp. 221-248. 

29 



VL BROWNING'S PHILOSOPHY OF ART AND 
LIFE: THE RING AND THE BOOK. 

"Lean one lesson hence 
Of many which whatever lives should teach: 
This lesson, that our human speech is naught, 
Our human testimony false, our fame 
And human estimation words and wind. 
Why take the artistic way to prove so much? 
Because, it is the glory and good of Art. 
That Art remains the one way possible 
Of speaking truth, to mouths like mine at least. 
******* 

Art. — wherein man nowise speaks to men. 
Only to mankind, — Art may tell B truth 
Obliquely, do the thing shall breed the thought. 
Nor wrong the thought, missing the mediate word. 
So may you paint your picture, twice show truth. 
Beyond mere imagery on the wall. — 
So. note by note, bring music from your mind, 
Deeper than ever e'en Beethoven dived. — 
So write a book shall mean beyond the facts. 
Suffice the eye and save the soul beside." 

— The Ring and the Book, volume II. p. 329. 



LECTURE OUTLINE. 

Introduction. — The Ring and the Book Browning's longest poem and 
in some respects his masterpiece. Composition in the culminating 
period of his work, thus representing his ripest thought and fullest 
poetic power. Though so long a poem, true to Browning's char- 
acteristic poetic method, the dramatic monologue. The Ring and 
the Book a scries of dramatic monologues centering upon one theme. 
Thus each portion of the poem fulfilling the functions of the brief 
dramatic monologues: yet in The Ring and the Book further: (1) The 
study of the reaction of the different characters upon each other; (2) The 
study of one series of events in relation to a group of individuals. 

30 



Thus a much broader weaving of the web of human life than in the 
shorter poems. Not only the study of the same critical moment in 
the lives of the different individuals, but the working out of all the 
complicated action and reaction of these upon each other. Thus 
The Ring and the Book the best opportunity to study Browning's 
philosophy of art and life. 

Subject of The Ring and the Book. — The Roman murder case of 
1698: such a story as the modern sensational newspaper would exploit 
to the debauching of its readers. Browning's finding of the book, 
part print, part manuscript, relating to the trial. The story in brief. 
This as the story retold, from his own point of view, by each of the 
speakers and actors in the poem. 

Truth versus fact. — The painful story of the murder case not only 
a basis for pernicious gossip, but material through which one may 
see reverently into human life. The book as containing: 

"Pure crude fact 
Secreted from man's life when hearts beat hard, 
And brains, high-blooded, ticked two centuries since." 

Distinction between facts and truth. Facts the material through 
which truth may be discovered. How facts may lie. The greatest 
test of the intellect, and one of the greatest of the character, the ability 
to see what facts mean. The meaning of any expression of a human 
life evident only in true relation to the whole life embodied. Thus 
the evil of gossip that it paws over the external expressions of char- 
acter utterly out of relation to the life clothed in them. 

Thus Browning's view of truth in relation to life. We see the world 
from the point of our own experience and character. For man truth 
relative; no view absolute. Hence the vision dependent upon char- 
acter: to see truth one must be true. The reaction of an individual 
upon any series of events a test and revelation of his character. Other 
factors entering into the appreciation of truth, but this of the life 
the basal one. Compare the people who always ring true; who, 
brought into the presence of a new range of facts, pierce unerringly 
through them to what they half-conceal and half-reveal. Such people 
found perhaps as often among those unlearned as among those widely 
read in the teaching of the past, though all sincere contact with life 
helps cultivate such insight. 

The Ring and the Book as the application of this principle to a variety 
of characters, testing and revealing each by his reaction on the central 
story. 

Browning's theory of art. — His view of truth in relation to fact as 

31 



determining Browning's philosophy of art. Because presenting truth 
in relation to personality, in all the color and form of life, art able to 
reveal the truth as is possible to no prosaic statement of fact in science 
or of theory in philosophy. Thus the lofty function of art: never 
merely to give pleasure (though that were enough) , but to breed wis- 
dom — the insight into concrete experience — to "save the soul." Brown- 
ing's unvarying recognition of this high function of art as a way of 
life. Fullest statement of his thought in The Ring and the Book. As 
God created the world, so art, using the elements of God's work, creates 
its world, and in so doing reveals the truth of God's world. 

Hence the image of the poem: the goldsmith takes the pure gold of 
the mine, mixes alloy to work it, molds it into the ring and then dissipates 
the alloy. There remains pure gold, but more than gold — a ring, 
to carry human sentiment and seal a marriage. So Browning, taking 
the "pure crude fact" of this Roman murder story, brooding over 
it and mixing his soul with it, moulding it into the poem, leaves it 
gold, but gold shapen into the ring, fact, but fact interpreted, its truth 
revealed. 

How this process tests the poet's own soul. For him too the vision 
determined by the moral reality of his character. He too can see 
truth only as he is true. Thus revelation of Browning, and of his 
character and life, in and behind all the figures of the poem. 

The first Half-Rome. — Application to the characters of the poem 
of the theory of truth in relation to fact. The story culminating in 
the murder dropped like a stone into the midst of the pond of public 
opinion and its waves rolling either way. Thus the speaker for half- 
Rome a married man, suspicious and jealous of his wife. He naturally 
sides with the husband; reacts instantly on the situation from the 
basis of his own experience. Thus half the world chooses a side, not 
because that side is or is not the truth, but because through tempera- 
ment, circumstances, accident, half the world naturally tends that way. 

The other Half- Rome. — Equally accidental the reaction of the other 
half of the world. The speaker for this half an unmarried sentimental- 
ist, inclining temperamentally to the woman's side of the story. No 
real appreciation of Pompilia; in fact admitting what, if true, would 
spoil the beauty of her character. Thus this speaker and the half- 
Rome he represents accidentally on the side that happens to have 
the truth, but without real recognition of the truth. 

Tertium Quid. — Always when the world's opinion falls into two 
halves, something left over: the reaction of the third somewhat, the 
idle rich who regard themselves as aristocracy, too fine to take sides 
in the quarrels of the vulgar world. The veneer of convention separat- 
ing these people from the realities of human life. Their false notion 

32 



that a polite cyniciam toward love and work is a mark of their superior 
culture. A whole literature cursed with this damning tendency. 
The view of these who regard themselves as the fashionable clique 
further from the truth than that of either half of common opinion. 
Yet Caponsacchi one of the Tertium Quid. The power of nature's 
gentleman, once awakened, to go beyond the man of other type. 

Guido Franceschini. — Browning passing next from the world's 
reaction to the central characters in the tragic drama. Guido the 
criminal. Compare with him Goethe's Mephistopheles and Shake- 
speare's Iago. Guido 's nature mere hate and malice. As he is utterly 
false, so no perception of truth. His view of life mere loathsome 
falsehood. Of all the characters of the poem, his darkness the farthest 
from the light of God's truth. 

Machine-made truth. — The center of the poem and the crowning 
expression of Browning's insight into human life in Caponsacchi, 
Pompilia and The Pope. These books reserved for further discussion. 
Not content with studying the general reactions of public opinion, 
Browning considers further the process the world sanctions to extract 
truth from facts and circumstances. Thus the speeches of the two 
hired counsellors whose business it is to find one side of the story true. 
Effect of this attitude on their ability to see the truth. Browning's 
scathing arraignment of the process of law. His view that the lawyer, 
paid to see the truth all on one side, is biased beforehand so that there 
is no hope of his seeing into the heart of such a human tragedy as fur- 
nishes the theme of the poem. Measure of justice in Browning's 
attitude. Compare the views of great lawyers such as Lincoln. 

Thus the defender of Guido: garrulous, conceited, pompous, aiming 
to present a brilliant classical argument in defense of Guido and thus 
conquer his legal adversary. The one touch of humanity in him his 
love of his boy. 

So the opposing counsel: Pompilia's defender seeking through the 
finesse of argumentation to work upon the judges. His utter failure 
to appreciate Pompilia and Caponsacchi; compare what he is willing 
to concede regarding them ! Something terrible in this machine process 
of law which, after all, merely interprets and carries further the reac- 
tion of the two halves of Rome. 

Conclusion. — Thus the relation of the different types and individuals 
to the truth; but behind them all Browning. His moral reality, his 
experience, his contact with human life as his equipment for inter- 
preting the human story. The full exemplification of his own 
philosophy of art in the poem. 



*3 



TOPICS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION. 

1. Compare in poetic method Pippa Passes and The Ring and the 

Book: which method is the more effective? 

2. Compare in artistic and philosophic value Paracelsus and The 

Ring and the Book. 

3. Browning's theory of art. 

4. Browning's view of the sources of insight into the truth of human 

life. 

5. Could any of the books of The Ring and the Book be omitted 

or much shortened without seriously hampering Browning's 
aim? 

6. Is Guido a possible character? 

7. Compare Guido with Goethe's Mephistopheles and Shakespeare's 

Iago. 

8. Compare the measure of insight into human life in the Tertium 

Quid and the two halves of Rome. 

9. Is Browning's view of the legal counsellors and the process of 

law just? 

10. Compare in artistic and philosophic value The Ring and the 

Book and the brief poems studied. 

11. How far does Browning fulfil his own theory of art in The Ring 

and the Book? 



REFERENCES. 

Browning, **The Ring and the Book, books I-V, VIII, IX, XI, 
XII; **Essay on Shelley. Alexander, Introduction to Browning, 
chapter IV. Brooke, Poetry of Browning, chapter XVI, pp. 391-413. 
Dorchester, ^Browning's Philosophy of Art, Boston Browning Society 
Papers, pp. 99-117. Dowden, *Robert Browning, chapter XII. John- 
son, Conscience and Art in Browning. Scudder, The Life of the Spirit 
in the Modern English Poets, chapter V. Thomson, Biographical and 
Critical Studies, pp. 458-477. West, *One Aspect of Browning's 
Villains. 



34 



VII. THE CROWNING REVELATION OF MAN- 
HOOD: CAPONSACCHI. 

"And surely not so very much apart 
Need I place thee, my warrior-priest, — in whom 
What if I gain the other rose, the gold, 
We grave to imitate God's miracle. 

Be glad thou hast let light into the world 
Through that irregular breach o' the boundary, — see 
The same upon thy path and march assured, 
Learning anew the use of soldiership, 
Self-abnegation, freedom from all fear, 
Loyalty to the life's end! Ruminate, 
Deserve the initiatory spasm, — once more 
Work, be unhappy but bear life, my son!" 

— The Pope's estimate of Caponsacchi, The Ring and the Book, vol. II, 
pp. 196-200. 



LECTURE OUTLINE. 

Introduction. — The preparation for Caponsacchi. Culmination of 
the poem in the monologues by him and by Pompilia. Caponsacchi 's 
the most perfectly dramatic of all the monologues of the poem. Com- 
pare how Browning shows greatest dramatic truth in portraying a 
character like himself. Contrast Shakespeare's ability to paint with 
equal truth a Desdemona, an Othello and an Iago. 

Situation at the opening of Caponsacchi 's monologue: Pompilia 
in the hospital dying of the stabs inflicted by her husband: Caponsacchi, 
who sought to save her, recalled by the judges who had sentenced 
him for his attempt, and asked to tell once more the story by the 
light of the terrible event. His whole nature quivering under the 
tragedy. How his splendid manhood shines forth in the broken 
utterances but majestic spirit in which he begins his statement. 

The relation of Caponsacchi to the truth. — Of all the characters of 
the poem, Caponsacchi nearest the heart of the truth, with the one 

30 



exception of Pompilia. The cause of this the truth of his spirit. Thus 
the many expressions of his relation to the truth. Compare (lines 
116-127) his sense that the truth is now evident, but too late to save 
Pompilia! His perception (lines 140-143) that one great lesson of 
life is recognizing our own failure. His desire to show the judges the 
truth, that is, "Pompilia who is true," that they may appreciate her 
nobility and the truth thus be helpful to human beings in new cases 
that arise (lines 146-172). 

Caponsacchi's meaning in saying Pompilia has done the good to 
him. Significance that he can say it in the presence of the terrible 
tragedy. How through Pompilia Caponsacchi was born into love 
and truth. Thus the marvel of personal life. Love and truth as the 
two absolute ends of the human spirit. Caponsacchi's hunger to 
serve Pompilia in the one poor way remaining to him: the telling once 
more of the story that her truth may appear. 

The story of Caponsacchi's life. — How Caponsacchi came to be a 
priest; his vows discounted before taken. His careless life before 
Pompilia touched him and his soul wakened — the mere butterfly 
sipping the honey of every garden-flower. Caponsacchi before his 
great experience as a perfect type of the Tertium Quid. 

His first sight of Pompilia. How immediately each soul recognized 
the other. Browning's success in making Pompilia stand out vividly 
before our eyes through the few lines of Caponsacchi's description. 
Contrast the vagueness of Michal in Paracelsus. 

The reaching out of Caponsacchi's soul to help Pompilia; significance 
of this attitude. Guido's malicious scheme to trap both wife and 
priest in a ruin that would glut his hate. Opposite result because 
of the truth of those he would make his victims. 

Pompilia's appeal. — Pompilia's first call to Caponsacchi to save her 
life for the sake of the life God had trusted to her. How each instantly 
recognized the other's truth and thus pierced at once through Guido's 
miserable cheat. How love means such a recognition of one personality 
by another. 

Caponsacchi's answer. — The strange first effect of Pompilia's appeal 
upon Caponsacchi: his awakening to the majestic laws underlying 
all life and hence his life. Thus turned back upon the vows and duties 
he had been ignoring, but which take on new sacredness through the 
birth of his soul. Truth of this to human character, and remarkable 
evidence of Browning's grasp of the deepest things of human life. 
Compare Miriam and Donatcllo in The Marble Faun. 

The second appeal. — Caponsacchi's horizon clearing; his recognition 
that the true service of God was the answering of the individual woman's 
need. The splendid directness with which he performs the service. 

36 



The ride to Rome. — Utter reverence of Gaponsacchi toward Pompilia 
through all the long ride together for the sake of her safety. The 
source of his reverence: can love be religion? 

Caponsacchi's feeling that the whole world must be transformed 
by the great experience that has come to him. Thus strange to him 
that others should go on about the same old routine of life. The value of 
a great experience in thus helping us to break through the heavy crust 
of convention and custom into the light and air and to a fresh testing 
of all things by the immediate standards of the soul. How all Brown- 
ing's greatest work rests upon such a testing of life through his own 
supreme experience. 

The situation when Guido overtakes Pompilia and Caponsacchi. 
How it appears to the world; the truth in Browning's view. 

The court's previous judgment. How completely the several judges 
failed to see the true meaning of the situation because of their character 
as human beings. Caponsacchi 's summing up of the whole story 
for the judges that they may see the truth. 

Caponsacchi's attitude toward Guido. Is he right in regretting 
that he did not kill Guido? Terrible power in the lines in which he 
compares Guido to Judas (lines 1858-1925). 

Caponsacchi and Pompilia. — Caponsacchi's statement that when 
he and Pompilia rushed each on each, the spark of truth was struck 
out from their souls (lines 1785-1787); and that he "assuredly did 
bow, was blessed by the revelation of Pompilia" (lines 1833-1841). 
Significance of his insistence upon the supreme service she has done 
him. The power of the deepest personal experiences to develop wis- 
dom and insight in comparison with the other channels through which 
deep lessons may be learned. 

Caponsacchi's different uses of the word "love." His repudiation 
of any ordinary use of the word in describing his relation to Pompilia. 
Absence in his attitude toward her of all selfish demand to be answered 
and satisfied. But hunger to serve her evermore, to lift up and pro- 
tect and bless her. Deep, reverent, tender reaching out of his spirit 
toward her. Did Caponsacchi love Pompilia? The plane upon which 
the word must be used if we answer affirmatively. 

Caponsacchi's description of her face: how wonderfully Browning 
has grown since portraying Michal and Palma. Sources of his power 
here. 

The dream of what might have been but never can be! How Capon- 
sacchi rises, and with what frankness he can tell his dream of what 
life would be with her, because of the purity of his attitude and — 
because she lies dying! The moving power of the poetry : was Brown- 
ing dreaming over his own supreme loss? 

37 



Caponsacchi's closing view of life. — The way life withdraws, and the 
perspective of the spirit in which it appears, through the effect of the 
great tragedy. Caponsacchi's unwavering recognition that God's 
sun shines, even though his own life be utterly in the shadow. Signifi- 
cance that he can accept with such splendid heroism in the face of all 
that has come to him. Source of his power to keep the truth of life. 

Browning's view that it is more important to love than to be loved. 
The relative effect of the two modes of love upon the human character. 
Compare the expression of the same truth in The Last Ride Together, 
in Evelyn Hope, in Browning's own experience. This the heart of all 
Browning's philosophy of personal life. Thus the significance of that 
philosophy. 

Conclusion. — What lies ahead for Caponsacchi? Compare the 
souls in Dante's second limbo who "without hope, live on in desire." 
Extent to which the description applies to Caponsacchi. Has he 
bought the spiritual vision by the loss of certain capacities of his own 
life? Must it be so purchased? 

The splendid heroism and majestic manhood with which the book 
closes. Is there in all literature a greater portrayal of manhood at 
once human and spiritual, masculine and transfigured, supremely 
loving but utterly without selfish demands? 

The value of Caponsacchi and his heroic attitude toward life for 
our own faith and experience. 



TOPICS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION. 

1. The measure of dramatic truth in Browning's portrayal of 

Caponsacchi. 

2. Compare Caponsacchi and Paracelsus. 

3. Browning's view of personal love. 

4. The significance of the effect upon Caponsacchi of Pompilia's 

first appeal to him. 

5. In what ways did Pompilia help Caponsacchi? 

6. Compare Caponsacchi's relation to Pompilia with Dante's to 

Beatrice in the Vita Nuova. 

7. What is the relative value of great personal experience as com- 

pared with other channels through which wisdom may be 
attained? 

8. Compare Caponsacchi and Valence in Colombe's Birthday. 

9. Contrast Caponsacchi and the speaker in Fijinc at the Fair. 

10. Compare Caponsacchi anil the men characters of The Inn Album, 

11. The relation of Caponsacchi to the truth. 

38 



12. What makes it possible for Caponsacchi to accept life heroically 

in spite of the tragedy? 

13. What possible future could there be for Caponsacchi at the 

conclusion of his part in the tragedy? 
Compare the situation of Caponsacchi with that of the souls in 

the second limbo of Dante's Inferno. 
Compare the view of personal love taken in The Ring and the 

Book, and in The Last Ride Together, Evelyn Hope and Colombe's 

Birthday. 
16. Compare Caponsacchi and Shakespeare's heroes. 



14. 



15 



REFERENCES. 



Browning, **The Ring and the Book, especially book VI, ^Capon- 
sacchi; **The Last Ride Together; *Evelyn Hope; *Colombe's Birthday; 
*Fifine at the Fair; *The Inn Album. Buchanan, Master Spirits, 
pp. 89-109. Cooke, ^Browning's Theory of Romantic Love, Boston 
Browning Society Papers, pp. 84-98. Innes, Seers and Singers, pp. 
99-124. Jones, *The Uncalculating Soul, Boston Browning Society 
Papers, pp. 130-152. Machen, The Bible in Browning. Morley, 
Studies in Literature, pp. 255-285. Nettleship, Robert Browning, 
pp. 9-45. Sharp, Victorian Poets, pp. 40-102. 



VIE. BROWNING'S INTERPRETATION OF 
WOMANHOOD: POMPILIA. 

" Earth's flower 
She holds up to the softened gaze of God!" 
— The Pope's estimate of Pompilia, The Ring and the Book, vol. II, 
o. 194. 



LECTURE OUTLINE. 

Introduction. — As Caponsacchi is Browning's highest interpreta- 
tion of manhood, so Pompilia his most wonderful reading of the 
woman soul. These two characters unique in literature: and the 
books portraying them as the heart of the whole poem. 

The relation of Browning's Pompilia to the character revealed in 
the documents of the murder case. Browning's statement that he 
found her substantially as he has portrayed her. If so, the more 
wonder that life and not art could produce this miracle of transfigured 
womanhood. Browning's art none the less wonderful in revealing 
her to us than if she were entirely the creation of his own imagination. 
Of all the characters of the story, Pompilia most of all burning up into 
the pure, white light of truth, because of them all she is most utterly 
true. 

Artistic qualities of book VII. — Browning's portrayal of Pompilia 
less perfectly true dramatically than his Caponsacchi. Words and 
images occasionally used by Pompilia not entirely in keeping with 
her experience and knowledge. Compare Shakespeare's lifting a 
character to a plane of more complete expression with Browning's 
tendency to make his characters at times speak his own language as 
well as thoughts. What this indicates of Browning's dramatic power. 

Yet substantial truth to her character in Pompilia's dramatic mono- 
logue. How Browning makes her live for us. Contrast the dramatic 
power here and in the portrayal of Michal in Paracelsus and Palma in 
Sordello. Exquisite character of the verse and imagery in the most 
moving portions of Pompilia's monologue. 

40 



Situation in book VII. — Pompilia, mortally wounded by her husband, 
dying in the hospital; but before going gathers her strength together 
and tells over the story of her life and fate, that the truth (chiefly for 
Caponsacchi's sake) may appear. 

The perspective that the dying hour brings: how the coarser realities 
of life seem to fade away for Pompilia, and only the spiritual meaning 
underneath to stand out clearly. Thus her sufferings seem far away 
and dream-like to her, while the two great strongholds of her faith 
in life — her child and Caponsacchi — stand forth unshadowed by the 
gloom of the past. 

Pompilia's story. — Pompilia's review of her life, first outlining the 
brief whole and then going over in detail the salient points. Her 
mother. Violante's deception. Pompilia's innocent girlhood. How 
she grew up as it were a white lily sprung from a dung-heap. Her 
relation to her foster-parents. The pathetic story of her marriage: 
Pompilia's ignorance as well as utter innocence. 

Pompilia's relation to the truth. — The view of life to which Pompilia 
has come. Her perception of the good alone as permanent. The 
dying hour acting upon her spiritual vision like Dante's Lethe and 
Eunoe upon his view of life. Pompilia's perfect trust: is it justified? 
How she exemplifies the truth, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they 
shall see God." Her insight and wisdom; these as dependent, not at 
all upon ordinary knowledge, but upon her character, her sufferings 
and her great personal experiences. How true her reaction upon every 
test of her experience. 

Browning's view of personal life. — The opportunity in portraying 
Pompilia for an expression, by indirection, of Browning's view of the 
most intimate relations of human life. Difficulty in discussing these; 
purity and nobility of Browning's attitude; perhaps nowhere else is 
his contribution so important. His teaching that the body is the 
garment of the soul, that every outer expression is significant only 
as it embodies something deeper than itself. Thus the love that is a 
consecration of the spirit as what makes sacred and beautiful all rela- 
tions of the outer life. Hence Pompilia entirely right in her instinctive 
reaction upon her relation to her husband. How any claim of "rights" 
or "duties" must blemish the most wonderful relationship of human 
life. The bases in character and experience of Browning's insight 
into these problems. 

Pompilia's motherhood. — The two attitudes toward her child possible 
in such circumstances as Pompilia's: (1) Resentment of it as Guido's 
child; (2) A more intense love of it that the inheritance of Guido's 
hate might be utterly blotted out and the child be wholly wrapped 
about with love. Evidence of Pompilia's heroic womanhood in her 

41 



rising to the noble attitude. Her splendid response to the call of the 
life deeper than her life. How Pompilia rises at the point where 
Goethe's Margaret goes down. 

The significance of Browning's interpretation of womanhood. How 
can a man see into a woman's soul as he reads Pompilia's? Sources 
of his power. The value of his teaching concerning motherhood. 

Pompilia and Caponsacchi. — How Pompilia hungers to serve Capon- 
sacchi, as he her. Thus her desire to make the truth — his truth — 
appear. Her story of her first sight of him. The frankness with 
which she expresses how her spirit immediately went out to him. 
Her feeling like his in the experience, but her expression even more 
frank and transparent. This as evidencing the higher purity of her 
spirit and her innocence of the world. How Caponsacchi's years of 
careless living and his knowledge of the world's inevitable reaction 
would make him withhold and explain. The power to speak frankly 
but delicately of the deepest things of human life as a test of the purity 
of one's own character. 

Pompilia's account of her call to Caponsacchi and his coming. Her 
instantaneous recognition of him. How love involves a discovery of 
one life by another. The difference in Pompilia's telling of the story 
from Caponsacchi's. Browning's skill in differentiating the two 
monologues, with equally remarkable character-drawing in each. The 
revelation in Pompilia of what is essentially and permanently woman- 
hood. Her pride in Caponsacchi, in his strength, courage, resource- 
fulness. Her cry: 

"Oh, to have Caponsacchi for my guide! 
Ever the face upturned to mine, the hand 
Holding my hand across the world, — a sense 
That reads, as only such can read, the mark 
God sets on woman, signifying so 
She should — shall peradventure — be divine; 
Yet 'ware, the while, how weakness mars the print 
And makes confusion, leaves the thing men see." 

Pompilia's sense of how Caponsacchi has helped her. Her desire, 
for his sake, that the service should be all successful. Her instinc- 
tive recognition that she has the easier, Caponsacchi the harder, part. 
Thus the closing portion of her monologue devoted wholly to him. 
The marvelous poetry to which the book rises and with which it con- 
cludes. Is there anywhere a more glorious song of what personal life 
ought to be, and may be, when the outer life is the garment of the 
inner, and love is a desire, not to take, but to bless evermore? 

42 



Pompilia's exultant acceptance of the death that frees her from 
Guido. Absence of any spirit of hate toward him. Thus in entire 
love and glad acceptance of life she goes out. 

The final judgment: the Pope. — Except Browning's own view the 
Pope as giving the final judgment of the story. The Pope's character — 
old, good, long-experienced in men and books alike. How he prepares 
for passing judgment on Guido and his fellow-murderers by reading a 
history, thus gaining a spiritual perspective. His summing up of 
each of the three principal characters. His decision. 

The Pope's relation to the truth. His the wide, balanced vision 
of life in relation, due to a good character crowned by learning and 
widely experienced in men and events. Thus his the judgment nearest 
God's. Yet even he, Browning thinks, does not burn up into the white 
soul of the truth like Pompilia or touch the heart of the concrete mean- 
ing of life like Caponsacchi. 

The poet and the poem. — Behind all the characters of The Ring 
and the Book, Browning. His equipment to get at the truth: compare 
in character and temperament, in experience, in study and art. Brown- 
ing's personal life as the basis of his portrayal of Caponsacchi and 
Pompilia; the light this fact throws on the meaning of personal life. 



TOPICS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION. 

1. The measure of dramatic truth in Pompilia's monologue. 

2. Compare the character-drawing in The Ring and the Book and 

in Paracelsus. 

3. Pompilia's relation to the truth. 

4. Compare Pompilia's insight with the Pope's wisdom. 

5. Why is Pompilia even more frank than Caponsacchi in telling 

the story of their relation to each other? 

6. Compare Pompilia and Michal in Paracelsus. 

7. Compare Pompilia and Colombe in Colombe's Birthday. 

8. In what respects does Browning excel in his portrayal of woman- 

hood? 

9. What are the sources of Browning's insight into womanhood? 

10. Compare Pompilia and Dante's Beatrice. 

11. Compare Pompilia and Goethe's Margaret. 

12. Browning's view of marriage. 

13. Browning's interpretation of motherhood. 

14. Compare Pompilia with Shakespeare's heroines. 



48 



REFERENCES. 

Browning, **Thc Ring and the Book, especially book VII, **Pompilia, 
and book X, *The Pope; **One Word More; *By the Fireside; *At the 
Mermaid; *House; *Shop; *Pisgah-Sighis; *Numpholeptos; *A Forgive- 
ness; *Epilogue to Pacchiarotto; *Reverie. Brooke, *Poetry of Robert 
Browning, chapters XIII, XIV. Bury, Browning's Philosophy. Ches- 
terton, * Robert Browning. Dawson, Makers of Modern English, 
chapters XXX, XXXI. Dowden, Studies in Literature, pp. 191-239. 
Moulton, Library of Literary Criticism, volume VII, pp. 677-720. 
Preston, Robert and Elizabeth Browning. Ritchie, Records of Tennyson, 
Ruskin and Browning, pp. 197-311. 






44 



SUGGESTIONS TO STUDENTS. 



Browning is distinctly a poet to be studied rather than merely read. 
While much of his poetry can be enjoyed at a single reading, hard 
work is necessary to give one a full grasp of his message and apprecia- 
tion of his art. Moreover, his best work has at least one mark that 
classes it with the masterpieces of world literature — the quality of 
being inexhaustible, rewarding repeated study with ever deeper truth 
and beauty. 

Thus students should read over and over the poems to be discussed 
in this course until every line is familiar. Next in value to these texts 
are Browning's other works, especially those recommended in the 
references following each lecture outline. Constant comparison should 
be made between one poem and another with the aim of appreciating 
the essential characteristics of Browning's art and the great ideas to 
which he most frequently returns. 

Next in value to Browning's own work are those collections of in- 
formation assumed by Browning in his poems, and hence necessary 
to the intelligent reading of them. Of these, Berdoe's Browning 
Cyclopcedia is perhaps the most useful; Cooke's Browning Guide-Book 
and the notes to the Camberwell and new Riverside editions are also 
excellent. 

Biographies of Browning (such as, Mrs. Orr's, Dowden's, Herford's, 
Sharp's, Chesterton's, and the Browning Letters) come next in value. 
While Browning was opposed to the poet's wearing his heart upon his 
sleeve and resented the biographer's intrusion into the intimacies 
of the artist's life, nevertheless Browning's greatest work would have 
been impossible except for the deeps of his personal experience, and 
his philosophy becomes doubly illuminating when seen in relation to 
his own character and development. 

Criticism, even when appreciative, should be given a distinctly 
subordinate place and used mainly to stimulate the student's thinking 
after his own view of Browning's poetry and philosophy has been 
clearly formulated. 

Above all, thinking is more important than much reading. All 

45 



great art is an illumination and interpretation of human life; thus 
one's own life is in turn the key to the understanding of the work of 
art. All the great experiences of human life are in some form in the 
past of the humblest of us; thus each has within himself the material 
for the understanding of the deepest poetry. There is plenty of lum- 
ber in anyone's attic; what people need, as Emerson put it, is "a 
lamp to ransack their attics withal." There is plenty of experience 
in your past life, what you need is the light of thought to interpret 
it. The lamp is hard to light, and only constant care and effort will 
keep it burning, but nothing can take its place. 

An effort to work out, in advance of the lecture, as many as possible 
of the topics following the lecture outline will help; and expression 
of one's thinking in a note book, to oneself, or with a group of fellow- 
students, will do much to clarify thought. A nebulous idea becomes 
a clear conception only through expression; thus the effort to formu- 
late thought is the greatest discipline to thinking. 



BOOK LIST. 

Books starred are of special value in connection with this course; those double- 
starred are texts for study and discussion, or are otherwise of first importance. 

Browning, **Works, Camberwell edition, 12 volumes, with introduc- 
tions and notes by Charlotte Porter and Helen A. Clarke. T. Y. 
Crowell & Co., New York, 1898. 

This edition is in convenient form and is well annotated. 
The new Riverside edition in 6 volumes, Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 
Boston, 1899, contains introductions and notes embodying the 
excellent material from Cooke's Browning Guide-Book. The 
Cambridge edition, Houghton, Mifflin & Co., Boston, 1895, is an 
admirable edition of all Browning's works in one volume, but the 
type is necessarily small. The edition in 2 volumes, by Augustine 
Birrell, The Macmillan Co., New York, 1896, is excellent and the 
type is a little more easy to read than in the Cambridge edition. 
Numerous volumes of selections from Browning are currently 
published, among the most satisfactory of which are those by 
Smith, Elder & Co., London, and D. Appleton & Co., New York. 

Browning, R. and E. B., *Letter8, 2 vols., pp. 574 and 571. Harper 
& Bros., Now York, L899. 

Browning, Elizabeth Barrett, ^Letters, edited by Frederic G. Kenyon. 
2 vols., pp. xiv + 478 and vi + 464. The Macmillan Co., New 
York, 1897. 



Bibliography of Robert Browning by F. J. Furnivall. In London Brown- 
ing Society's Papers, part i, pp. 21-115; part ii, pp. 117-170, 

Triibner & Co., London, 1881 and 1883. 

See also Materials for a Bibliography of Robert Browning. In 

Nicoll and Wise, Literary Anecdotes of the Nineteenth Century , 

vol. 1, pp. 361-627. Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1895. 
Alexander, William John, An Introduction to the Poetry of Robert Brown- 
ing. Pp. iv + 212. Ginn & Co., Boston, 1889. 
Beale, Dorothea, The Religious Teaching of Browning. In London 

Browning Society's Papers, part iii, pp. 323-338. Triibner & Co., 

London, 1882. Also reprinted in Berdoe, Browning Studies, 

pp. 76-91. 
Berdoe, Edward, Browning and the Christian Faith. Pp. xx + 231. 

The Macmillan Co., New York, 1896. 
Berdoe, Edward, **The Browning Cyclopaedia. Pp. xviii + 576. The 

Macmillan Co., New York, 1902. 
Berdoe, Edward, Browning's Message to His Time. Pp. 222. Swan 

Sonnenschein & Co., London, 1890. 
Berdoe, Edward (editor), *Browning Studies, being Select Papers by 

Members of the London Browning Society. Pp. xii + 331. George 

Allen, London, 1895. 
Berdoe, Edward, A Primer of Browning. Pp. vi + 124. E. P. Dutton 

& Co., New York, 1904. 
Birrell, Augustine, Obiter Dicta, Series I, pp. 55-95, On the Alleged 

Obscurity of Mr. Browning's Poetry. Charles Scribner's Sons, 

New York, 1893. 
Bolton, Sarah K., Famous English Authors of the Nineteenth Century, 

pp. 389-451, Robert Browning. T. Y. Crowell & Co., New York, 

1890. 
* Boston Browning Society Papers (The), Selected to Represent the 

Work of the Society from 1886 to 1897. Pp. viii + 503. The 

Macmillan Co., New York, 1897. 

Some excellent papers, falling into several connected series. 
Bradford, Amory H., Spiritual Lessons from the Brownings. Pp. 38. 

T. Y. CroweU & Co., New York, 1900. 
Bronson, Katherine C, Browning in A solo. In Century Magazine, 

vol. 59, pp. 920-931. April, 1900. 
Bronson, Katharine DeKay, Browning in Venice. In Century Magazine, 

vol. 63, pp. 572-584. February, 1902. 
Brooke, Stopford A., *The Poetry of Robert Browning. Pp. iv + 447. 

T. Y. Crowell & Co., New York, 1902. 

An admirable, well-balanced study. Perhaps the best general 

criticism of Browning yet published. 

47 



Buchanan, Robert, Master Spirits, pp. 89-109, The Ring and the 

Book: Browning's Masterpiece. Henry S. King & Co., London, 

1873. 
Buck, J. D., Browning's Paracelsus and Other Essays, pp. 13-60, Brown- 
ing's Paracelsus. The Robert Clarke Co., Cincinnati, O., 1897. 
Bulkeley, H. J., The Reasonable Rhythm of Some of Browning's Poems. 

In London Browning Society's Papers, part viii, pp. 119-131. 

Triibner & Co., London, 1886. 
Burton, Richard, Literary Likings, pp. 150-171, Renaissance Pictures 

in Browning's Poetry. Copeland & Day, Boston, 1898. 
)/Bury, John, Browning's Philosophy. In London Browning Society's 

Papers, part iii, pp. 259-277. Turbner & Co., London, 1882. 

Also reprinted in Berdoe, Browning Studies, pp. 28-46. 
Carpenter, W. Boyd, The Religious Spirit in the Poets, pp. 202-247, 

Browning. T. Y. Crowell & Co., New York, 1901. 
Cary, Elizabeth Luther, Browning; Poet and Man. Pp. ix + 282. 

G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York, 1899. 
A compilation with excellent illustrations. 
Chesterton, G. K., * Robert Browning. Pp. v + 207. The Macmillan 

Co., New York, 1903. 

An excellent book, strongly original and freshly stimulating. 

The love of rather brilliant paradoxes is its chief fault. At times, 

too, the author seems almost flippant; yet the real spirit of the 

book is earnest and deeply appreciative of Browning. 
Clark, J. Scott, A Study of English and American Poets, A Laboratory 

Method, pp. 658-713, Robert Browning. Charles Scribner's 

Sons, New York, 1900. 
Cooke, George Willis, *A Guide-Book to the Poetic and Dramatic Works 

of Robert Browning. Pp. xvi + 451. Houghton, Mifflin & Co.. 

Boston, 1901. 
Cooke, George Willis, Poets and Problems, pp. 269-388, Browning. 

Houghton, Mifflin & Co., Boston, 1893. 
Corson, Hiram, *An Introduction to the Study of Robert Browning's 

Poetry. Pp. x + 367. D. C. Heath & Co., Boston, 1889. 
Curtis, George William, From the Easy Chair, pp. 197-208, Robert 

Browning in Florence. Harper & Bros., New York, 1S92. 
Dawson, W. J., The Makers of Modern English, pp. 270-327, Browning. 

Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1890. 
Dowden, Edward, *Boberi Browning. Pp. xvi 4- 404. E. P. Dutton 

& Co., New York, 1904. 
Dowden, Edward, Studies in Literature, 1789-1877, pp. 191-239, Mr. 

Tennyson and Mr. Browning. Kegan Paul, Trench, Triibner 

& Co., London, 1899. 

48 



Fleming, Albert, Andrea del Sarto. In London Browning Society's 

Papers, part viii, pp. 95-102. Triibner & Co., London, 1886. 
Fotheringham, J., Studies of the Mind and Art of Robert Browning. 

Pp. xxviii + 576. Horace Marshall & Son, London, 1898. 
Gosse, E., Robert Browning; Personalia. Pp. 96. Houghton, Mifflin 

& Co., Boston, 1890. 
Grant, Percy Stickney, Browning's Art in Monologue. In Boston 

Browning Society Papers, pp. 35-66. 
Herford, Charles H., Robert Browning. Pp. xi -t- 309. Dodd, Mead 

& Co., New York, 1905. 
Hubbard, Elbert, Little Journeys to the Homes of English Authors, vol. 

vi, no. 2, pp. 25-50, Robert Browning. The Roycrofters, East 

Aurora, N. Y., Feb. 1900. 
Hutton, Richard Holt, Literary Essays, pp. 188-243, Mr. Browning. 

The Macmillan Co., New York, 1888. 
Hyde, W. De Witt, The Art of Optimism as Taught by Robert Browning. 

Pp. 35. T. Y. Crowell & Co., New York, 1900. 
Innes, A. D., Seers and Singers. Pp. 223. A. D. Innes & Co., London, 

1893. 
Johnson, E., Conscience and Art in Browning. In London Browning 

Society's Papers, part iii, pp. 345-380. Triibner & Co., London, 

1882. 
Jones, Henry, Browning as a Philosophical and Religious Teacher. 

Pp. xvi + 349. The Macmillan Co., New York, 1899. 
Little, Marion, Essays on Robert Browning. Pp. 204. Swan Sonnen- 

schein & Co., London, 1899. 
London Browning Society's Papers. Published by Triibner & Co., 1881- 

1891. 
A mine of interesting material. Only the most important 

papers are listed here. 
Mabie, Hamilton Wright, Essays in Literary Interpretation, pp. 99-137, 

Browning. Dodd, Mead & Co., New York, 1892. 
Machen, Minnie Gresham, The Bible in Browning; with Particular 

Reference to The Ring and the Book. Pp. 290. The Macmillan 

Co., New York, 1903. 
Mazzini, Joseph, Life and Writings, vol. 14, pp. 1-55, *The Philosophy 

of Music. Smith, Elder & Co., London, 1891. 
Mellone, Sydney Herbert, Leaders of Religious Thought in the Nineteenth 

Century. Pp. viii + 302. Wm. Blackwood & Sons, London, 1902. 
Molineux, Marie Ada, A Phrase Book from the Poetic and Dramatic 

Works of Robert Browning. Pp. xiii + 520. Houghton, Mifflin 

& Co., Boston, 1896. 

References to the Riverside and Cambridge editions. 
4 49 



Morley, John, Studies in Literature. Pp. 347. The Macmillan Co., 
New York, 1897. 

Moulton, Charles Wells (editor), *The Library of Literary Criticism 
of English and American Authors, vol. 7, pp. 677-720, Robert 
Browning. Moulton Publishing Co., Buffalo, 1904. 

Nettleship, John T., Robert Browning; Essays and Thoughts. Pp. 
xii + 454. Elkin Mathews, London, 1890. 

Ormerod, Helen J., Abt Vogler, The Man. In London Browning Society's 
Papers, part x, pp. 221-236. Trtibner & Co., London, 1889. 

Ormerod, Helen J., Andrea del Sarto and Abt Vogler. In London Brown- 
ing Society's Papers, part xi, pp. 297-311. Triibner & Co., Lon- 
don, 1890. Also reprinted in Berdoe, Browning Studies, pp. 151-165. 

Ormerod, Helen J., Some Notes on Browning's Poems Referring to 
Music. In London Browning Society's Papers, part ix, pp. 180- 
195. Triibner & Co., London, 1888. Also reprinted in Berdoe, 
Browning Studies, pp. 237-252. 

Orr, Mrs. S., *A Handbook to the Works of Robert Browning. Pp. 
xv + 420. George Bell & Sons, New York, 1892. 

Orr, Mrs. S., *Life and Letters of Robert Browning. 2 vols., pp. xii and 
ix + 646. Houghton, Mifflin & Co., New York, 1892. 

Pigou, Arthur Cecil, Robert Browning as a Religious Teacher. Pp. 
xii + 132. The Macmillan Co., New York, 1901. 

Porter, Charlotte, and Clarke, Helen A., Browning Study Programmes. 
2 vols., pp. xxiv + 631. To accompany the Camberwell Browning. 
T. Y. Crowell & Co., New York, 1900. 

Porter, Charlotte, and Clarke, Helen A. (editors), Poet-Lore. 1889-. 

This magazine has from its commencement devoted a large part 
of its pages to Browning. The volumes should be consulted for 
valuable articles and notes. 

Preston, Harriet Waters, Robert and Elizabeth Browning. In Atlantic 
Monthly, vol. 83, pp. 802-826. June, 1899. 

Ritchie, Anne Isabella Thackeray, Records of Tennyson, Ruskin and 
Browning, pp. 197-311, Robert and Elizabeth Browning. The 
Macmillan Co., New York, 1893. 

Scudder, Vida D., The Life of the Spirit in the Modern English Poets. 
Pp. v + 349. See especially chapter V, pp. 201-238, ♦Brown- 
ing as a Humorist. Houghton, Mifflin & Co., Boston, 1895. 

Sharp, Amy, Victorian Poets. Pp. xx + 207. Methuen & Co., London, 
1891. 

Sharp, William, Life of Robert Browning. Pp. 219 + xxii. Walter 
Scott, London, 1890. 

Stedman, Edmund Clarence, Victorian Poets. Pp. xxiv + 521. Hough- 
ton, Mifflin &. Co., Boston, 1893. 

50 






Strong, Augustus Hopkins, The Great Poets and Their Theology, pp. 
373-447, Browning. American Baptist Publication Society, 
Philadelphia, 1897. 

Symons, Arthur, An Introduction to the Study of Browning. Pp. vi + 221. 
Cassell & Co., London, 1897. 

Thomson, James, Biographical and Critical Studies, pp. 437-483, 
Browning. Reeves & Turner, London, 1896. 

Turnbull, Mrs., Abt Vogler. In London Browning Society's Papers, 
part iv, pp. 469-476. Trubner & Co., London, 1883. Also 
reprinted in Berdoe, Browning Studies, pp. 143-150. 

Vasari, Giorgio, Lives of the Painters, Sculptors and Architects. 6 vols. 
Vol. 3, pp. 180-236, Andrea del Sarto. George Bell & Sons, New 
York, 1892-1900. 

Walker, Hugh, The Greater Victorian Poets. Pp. 332. The Macmillan 
Co., New York, 1895. 

Waugh, Arthur, Robert Browning. Pp. xiv + 155. Small, Maynard 
& Co., Boston, 1900. 

West, Miss E. D., One Aspect of Browning's Villains. In London Brown- 
ing Society's Papers, part iv, pp. 411-434. Trubner & Co., Lon- 
don, 1883. Also reprinted in Berdoe, Browning Studies, pp. 
106-129. 

Whitman, Sarah W., Robert Browning in His Relation to the Art of 
Painting. Pp. 22. Browning Society, Boston, 1889. 

Wilson, F. Mary, A Primer on Browning. Pp. viii + 248. The Mac- 
millan Co., New York, 1891. 



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